American Airlines Won’t Retire Planes This Decade, May Order More Narrowbodies

American Airlines has shared with employees that it won’t be retiring any more aircraft types through 2030. In total, they’ll take delivery of 23 new planes this year, and they will consider an order of new narrowbody aircraft for 2027.

Here are key takeaways from internal employee discussion this past Thursday,

  • “We actually don’t have any planned fleet retirements between now and the end of the decade, because we have a really young fleet because of that massive fleet renewal program.”

  • “What we’re taking this year: we have 23 airplanes coming in this year. 13 have been delivered, 10 to go. Next year that will step up a little bit.”

  • “We’re going to need aircraft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we make a commitment to some narrowbody aircraft as we get past 2027.”

American shares that they are not concerned with the backed up order books of Boeing and Airbus. With all of the orders that other airlines have placed, there’s much discussion that there’s just no room in delivery schedules at this point for airlines to buy more planes and that when an airline like United has placed massive orders of both narrowbody and widebody planes they’ve also blocked other carriers from acquiring new jets.

But American’s position is that they’ll make room for their orders because they’re the world’s largest airline and in a position to take delivery and pay for the planes unlike some new smaller players. Chief Operating Officer David Seymour expects supply chain issues at airframe manufacturers to be worked out, allowing the to get back to producing 60 narrowbodies a month.

Meanwhile American Airlines retired its Embraer E-195s, Boeing 757s and 767s, and Airbus A330s during the pandemic, and its MD80s right before that. You might think ‘there’s nothing left to retire’ but that isn’t true.

There was a point at which the legacy US Airways Airbus A320 fleet – long in the tooth and aging – were set to be sold off or sent to the boneyard. That’s what justified not updating the product. They still have the old, beaten up first class seats (with new seat covers) and lack bigger overhead bins. The condition of the interiors of American Airlines A320s is sad. At the same time, they haven’t been as densified as other narrowbodies, so there are some coach seats that still offer decent legroom.

Whenever I’ve flagged photos like these from Airbus A320 first class cabins, the response I’ve gotten has been ‘well passengers wouldn’t want us to delay their flights to fix these seats’ – but that begs the questions, (1) why is it always the A320s? (2) What are they doing – or not doing – when the planes aren’t flying to maintain the interiors so that this doesn’t happen so frequently?

This fleet of around 48 planes continues to operate. Many of them date to the 90s, from America West Airlines and from US Airways prior to being taken over by America West. The newest one is around 18 years old. And these do need to be retired. Hopefully American is grouping them together with Airbus A319 and A321 planes and only suggesting ‘the Airbus narrowbodies’ as a whole won’t be retired (which is obvious) but that the A320 subfleet can be made to go away.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. American early retired 767 with same age as current 777-200. They resigned routes like MIA/MVD and left fertile ground for Copa, Latam, Avianca.
    As a frequent flyer of this route I have to manifest my complete disagreement with such decision. They (management) don’t care about customers (loyal or not). They will probably resume daily flights (all year round) with a321 xlr. I’m not going to flight narrow body for 9 hours! It’s insane and claustrophobic!

  2. I don’t want to spend many hours flying aboard a narrow body aircraft over seas. I don’t fly AA for many reasons. They just don’t seem to care or get the fact that they don’t. One bad decision after another.

  3. American, Delta and United are all heading for unprecedented mainline fleets over 1000 aircraft. DL and UA will hit that level next year w/ AA soon after.

    American will gain a substantial advantage in having to spend much less on fleet. AA’s order book is smaller than DL and UA’s but they can use all of their narrowbody order book for growth. They could use their 787 orders to replace larger portions of their 777-200ER fleet and gain a significant cost advantage.

    American’s A320 fleet likely have at least 5 more years in them. Airbuses are holding up just as long or longer than Boeings

    AA has never done a great job of maintaining cabins on its older aircraft but will have to do so if it intends to keep them for the rest of the decade.

    btw, they made these remarks about their fleet plans first on their earnings call… no internal employee documents were needed.

  4. Airplanes need to be retired when they are no longer economical to fly, either because they are not sufficiently fuel efficient, upcoming major maintenance checks are not cost effective, or they are suffering from high out-of-service rates. The cabin condition has little to do with the need to retire an airframe, but may indicate an airline does not care to address it on an airframe they intend to retire. It could be a lack of spare parts for old seats, and not being cost effective to refresh the interior. But, compare this to United who is refreshing interiors on older airframes. If American doesn’t plan to retire these airplanes for another 6.5 years, they should be considering refreshing the interiors.

  5. @Juan Echeveritto, no they didn’t. American’s 767-300ER fleet was built and delivered mostly between 1988 and the early 1990s. Only the newer build frames with the 777 style cabin interiors, which replaced the high lease TWA 763s post acquisition were comparatively newer. The 777-200 fleet was ordered in 1996 and deliveries began in 1999 and ended in 2002.

  6. @Tim Dunn, good points. AA re-fleeted the domestic narrow body portion of its mainline jets with the 2011 order that was concurrent with AMR’s bankruptcy filing. The bulk of the 737-800, 737-MAX, and A321 and new build A319s came from that order.

    My sense is that AA will retrofit the 48 A320s and keep them flying longer. It will not be a huge expense for 48 frames relative to the sheer size of the 737 and 321 fleets, but even those had their interiors revamped.

    The 320s are not at all bad to fly on with AA. They have cushier seats in coach and are used for relatively short hops.

  7. As usual, in your AA bashing campaign you fail to mention as that the oldest A320s in the former US Airways—now American—fleet were acquired by America West from defunct Braniff in the early 1990s. Please insert some historical context in your articles so as to not get call out as I did you, and to not sound so ignorant as you do.

  8. “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” —Theodore Roosevelt

  9. @ATC – your comment is flat wrong.

    “you fail to mention as that the oldest A320s in the former US Airways—now American—fleet were acquired by America West from defunct Braniff in the early 1990s.”

    First, that wouldn’t be super relevant.

    Second, it’s also factually wrong. The roughly couple dozen A320s that date to America West were delivered between 1998 and 2005 and America West was generally the original operator of those aircraft, not Braniff. And about 10 of the A320s that date to legacy US Airways were delivered in 1999.

    “Please insert some historical context in your articles so as to not get call out as I did you, and to not sound so ignorant as you do.”

    Yeah, ok 🙂

  10. I don’t understand why they aren’t ordering more wide bodies. They’ve said themselves several times they are short on wide bodies and AA has quite a few less wide bodies than Delta and FAR fewer wide bodies than United. AA has said several times that they’ve had to cancel routes due to lack of wide bodies. The A321 XLR seems suited to only certain markets and as far as I know they haven’t ordered any 777 -Xs of any kind. I wonder why.

  11. Gary,

    Those two photos have been used for YEARS by you (I think just after the merger). My last A320 flight, they had added power to every seat and new AA style seat covers where on them. Yes, they are long in the tooth but way better then DL’s old NWA birds which are older. I can see MAXs and A321 eventually replacing them before 2030, but right now, they need planes and those old girls kept AA in play during the MAX groundings.

    My guess is more MAX (maybe 8 and 10s) and more A321s potentially A220’s to replace the A319 and A320 in the future. Long range more 787-9/plus some 10s to replace the 772’s. AA does have slots in their options to jump ahead of DL and UA, not just little carriers. UA is going to go through the pain AA did from 2014 – 2019 with all these new planes and a huge debt increase. AA will paydown debit and follow a more replace as we go (similar to DL) strategy IMO.

  12. AA has a plan. The lease expires December 31, 2025 at its legacy Allegheny Airlines/US Air maintenance base in PIT which maintains the 319’s, 320’s and the 321’s (all variants). Could AA end the lease early at PIT? – yes. However, the expanded maintenance facility at TUL is not yet completed.

    By the end of 2025, AA should be in a position to retire the A319’s and A320’s from their fleet.


  13. @sunviking82

    “Yes, they are long in the tooth but way better then DL’s old NWA birds which are older.”

    The DL birds may be older, but even the refreshed AA interior is nowhere near better than the DL A319/320 fleet. Every seat on DL has had power and IFE for years, the cabin is more modern with updated, large bins, and the free Wi-Fi is available on the entire A319/320/321 fleet.

  14. Wonder if this will apply to Air Wisconsin’s crjs as well. Probs to soon to talk about their retirement as they just entered the contract with them, but in 5 years when the contract is set to expire the youngest of those crjs will roughly be about almost 25 years old. Maybe that’s Air Wisconsin’s problem who knows we’ll see what the future aholds

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